Was Egypt a ‘Democratic Coup’?

Following Mohamed Morsy’s overthrow in Egypt, I wrote about Ozan Varol’s argument that under certain rare circumstances, coups can be described as "democratic" if they are staged against authoritarian regimes with the widespread support of the people. The three main examples cited in the paper are the 1960 Turkish Coup, 1974 Portuguese Coup, and the ...

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Following Mohamed Morsy's overthrow in Egypt, I wrote about Ozan Varol's argument that under certain rare circumstances, coups can be described as "democratic" if they are staged against authoritarian regimes with the widespread support of the people. The three main examples cited in the paper are the 1960 Turkish Coup, 1974 Portuguese Coup, and the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak In a post on the Opinio Juris blog yesterday day, Varol says recent events in Egypt don't fit the bill:

The Egyptian military deposed a president who was elected just a year ago via elections characterized by many as free and fair.  To be sure, the military responded to the demands of a massive protest movement against an immensely unpopular and defiant president. There is much to criticize about President Morsi’s majoritarian governance style and the Constitution drafted under the Muslim Brotherhood’s tutelage.  But the military’s actions were premature.  Speculations aside, there was no indication at the time of the coup that Morsi would refuse to relinquish power upon an electoral loss or that any elections under his government would be rigged, as they were under Mubarak.  Had the military not forcibly removed Morsi, opposition groups may have been able to capitalize on Morsi’s unpopularity to oust him at the ballot box.  The military’s quick-fix short-circuited the established democratic procedures.

For more coup follow-up, see Jay Ulfelder on how they slow economic growth.

Following Mohamed Morsy’s overthrow in Egypt, I wrote about Ozan Varol’s argument that under certain rare circumstances, coups can be described as "democratic" if they are staged against authoritarian regimes with the widespread support of the people. The three main examples cited in the paper are the 1960 Turkish Coup, 1974 Portuguese Coup, and the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak In a post on the Opinio Juris blog yesterday day, Varol says recent events in Egypt don’t fit the bill:

The Egyptian military deposed a president who was elected just a year ago via elections characterized by many as free and fair.  To be sure, the military responded to the demands of a massive protest movement against an immensely unpopular and defiant president. There is much to criticize about President Morsi’s majoritarian governance style and the Constitution drafted under the Muslim Brotherhood’s tutelage.  But the military’s actions were premature.  Speculations aside, there was no indication at the time of the coup that Morsi would refuse to relinquish power upon an electoral loss or that any elections under his government would be rigged, as they were under Mubarak.  Had the military not forcibly removed Morsi, opposition groups may have been able to capitalize on Morsi’s unpopularity to oust him at the ballot box.  The military’s quick-fix short-circuited the established democratic procedures.

For more coup follow-up, see Jay Ulfelder on how they slow economic growth.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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